Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, California


Just when you think Southern California is going to sear your differentiation faculties to a uniform beige and green, you run into this historic treasure. Ojala!

Founded on June 13, 1798 by Padre Fermín Lasuén, this church and its compound, the eighteenth and last of the Spanish missions established in California, have been rebuilt a couple of times, and are currently being earthquake-proofed by order of the state, so no masses are currently held in this historic chapel. But they will return in February. The church was named for Saint Louis, king of France, in a deal by the Spanish to get the French to leave town — they were losing influence in the region anyway, but it’s amazing to think that the French were in California before 1800. This mission, largest of the 18 on the California coast, lent its name to the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians.

Details of the inside and outside are vivid and mostly authentic, excepting the skull and crossbones over the cemetery gate, which were added by makers of the “Zorro” television show in the 1950s.

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